Preparing for Recovery -The Future of Disaster Response

January 23, 2008

After the fires in southern California in October 2007, I traveled to San Diego alongside the Small Business Administration to help facilitate recovery in the region. What struck me was how well the response was going.

What also struck me was how little most people know about recovery. 

Disasters are sporadic. This, of course, is good since disasters adversely affect almost every part of a community — from the economy to people’s way of life.

Still, we as a nation need to learn a lot more about the process of disaster recovery. A community after a disaster is a lot like Humpty Dumpty — a few pieces are broken or missing. You can try to make it resemble what you had before, but things have changed. For businesses, local suppliers might have ceased operations or customers may have left the area.

So what do new, post-disaster realities bring to communities — and the companies operating in them? While every disaster is different, some common themes or measures should be set to determine how well a community is recovering. This is where the local business sector plays a significant role. 


I traveled back to San Diego last week for a BCLC-hosted forum on this idea of recovery metrics. At the forum local chamber executives and corporate leaders from Abbott, FedEx, International Profit Associates, Microsoft, Office Depot, UPS and several other companies talked with academic and economic development experts from around the country about complex questions such as:

  • How do we set up recovery measures?
  • What role should local chambers play in their communities after a disaster?
  • In what areas of the recovery should companies engage in order to use their resources most effectively?
  • How do we teach these lessons learned to the people in the community who will be leading the recovery?

This is brand new space. I think of it as preparing for recovery. The forum was a first step in cataloging lessons learned and applying them to the future. Now it’s time to expand the concept around the country.

Preparing for recovery — sounds like a good concept. What do you think? 

For more information visit BCLC’s website.